“It is the CVSP Advogados’ practice and philosophy to provide differentiated support to clients at every stage of the process”

João Santos Pinto, founding partner of CVSP Advogados, has had a remarkable career path from his first steps in the legal profession to the consolidation of his firm in 2012. With a personalised approach to the client and a dedicated team, his brand stands out as a Lawyers' boutique, capable of tackling the most pressing challenges in Portuguese law and legal practice. João gave us his perspective on these challenges, highlighting them, as well as the commitments and the solutions that guide his vision of the national legal landscape.


First, could you describe in a few words your professional and personal journey up until the foundation of CVSP Advogados?
First, I completed a Law degree at the Universidade Lusíada in 1998, and then a postgraduate course in Taxation at the ISG, Business & Economics School in 2002/2003 with Professor Saldanha Sanches.
I was a law trainee at PLMJ between 1998 and 2000, and then I spent a short spell at a German multinational.
Therefore, I am a lawyer for 24 years now.
I started as a fully-fledged lawyer at the age of 25 in a solo legal office. After a couple of years, my office merged with other offices and became a Law Firm. That same year, in 2005, I was invited to become a Junior Partner at the Law Firm Almeida Ribeiro e Associados.
In 2010, I decided to take an LL.M. (Master of Laws) in International Tax Law at the Maastricht University in the Netherlands, where I stayed for a year. At the time, I was already married and the father of a large family, which made it a little more demanding on me, even though I felt really motivated and had a strong will to complete this stage of my professional life. In addition, I also counted on the enormous support from my wife.
The truth is this experience allowed me to expand my horizons and, when I returned to Portugal, it made perfect sense for me to start a project on my own, with a more international orientation, aiding Portuguese companies in their internationalisation processes, as well as supporting international investors in our country. Therefore, at the end of 2012, CVSP Advogados was created. It was always a well-thought-out process and that translated into sustained growth.
There is no doubt that the approval of the Golden Visa and the Non-Habitual Resident Programme (NHR) has made an important contribution to the company, increasing demand, and boosting the number of foreign clients, which currently stands at around 80 per cent.
13 years after CVSP Advogados was founded, we thought it made sense to take a further step: the formal constitution of a Law Firm.
Besides being a lawyer, I am also a Tax Arbitrator at CAAD – Centre for Administrative Arbitration and a member of the Board of Directors of CCILB –Portuguese-Brazilian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, as Treasurer. Personally, all the dimensions of this wide-ranging profession are challenging, in a good way.
Having a large family – and balancing that with my professional career – is also a challenge, which is only possible to overcome if you have a team supporting you. It would be unbearable to do it alone. Which is why our firm, since its foundation, has adopted, as its motto, the African proverb: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go with others”. Without a team and a family supporting us unconditionally, it would not be possible.
Nonetheless, I must have an enormous resilience and ability to overcome obstacles on a daily basis, in particular because clients – especially international ones – are very demanding and want a fast and high-quality service.

Today, 14 years in the making, how has CVSP Advogados come to see itself as a boutique law firm where the client always comes first?
What we always try to do is provide personalised customer support to our clients.
As a founding partner, I always try to be there, although I obviously have a team that I trust to do this. Nonetheless, I always try to be present, not only for quality control, but also to assert what we set with our clients: our differentiation is in this personalised support, particularly on my part.
To this extent, the client always comes first, as it is the CVSP Advogados’ practice and philosophy to provide differentiated support to clients at every stage of the process.

What are CVSP Advogados’ areas of expertise as well as yours, individually?
The firm offers services in a wide range of areas, but, from the outset, we have focused on the internationalisation of Portuguese companies and on helping foreign clients move to Portugal.
To this end, we provide support not only with visas, but also with taxation, which is transversal and important in all relocation processes. We also provide support in the areas of Property Law, Company Law and, in a residual way, in Litigation. Moreover, due to the expertise of CVSP Advogados partner Mónica Cayolla da Veiga, we also work with Financial Law.
I, in particular, have been more involved in Taxation, which is basically my expertise, but I am also involved in corporate and property transactions, and Visas, although in the latter we have a team dedicated exclusively to that area.

By the way, how did your interest in tax come about?
I already had as a reference the fact that I had a history of close family members linked to the tax area, having worked for the Tax Authority. Even so, it was not an area I wanted to pursue from the start. It so happens that after my internship I wanted to study a postgraduate course in an area of law, and my wife suggested that I apply for a postgraduate course in taxation at ISG. Funnily enough, it was also my wife who encouraged me to study an LL.M. abroad in Taxation, so I would like to pay her due tribute here.
Thus, motivated by some initial chance, it is an area I have specialised in, and it is undoubtedly a passion.

Regarding internationalisation, we know that it has been an essential factor in the success of CVSP Advogados. What can you tell us about this topic?
First and foremost, we do have Portuguese clients, but since the firm’s niche market has always been international clients, we have always been concerned with having international partnerships so that we can support not only Portuguese clients, but also clients from those same jurisdictions. That is why our office began its presence in Guinea-Bissau, through our Senior Associate, Acury Vaz, but we also maintain strategic partnerships with various countries, including Turkey with Gled Partners and Mexico with Ibáñez, Fernandez del Castillo, Malagón.

João Santos Pinto has been a lawyer for over 20 years. As a Cover Personality, how did this passion for the legal profession come about? What is your analysis and assessment of more than two decades in this sector?
By nature, I am a person who does not deal well with injustice. To that extent, the Law, and, particularly, the legal profession, is something that allows me to fight injustice on a daily basis. That is not to say that I have always wanted to be a lawyer – when I was younger, I had different dreams and wanted to be all sorts of professions, from Agricultural Engineer to Historian. However, at a certain stage, it all started to make sense and I decided to invest in this area of law, which I have absolutely no regrets about. I cannot do anything else but to be a lawyer. It is a profession that fulfils me, not least because Law itself has so many different areas. It is a world that gives me freedom to always feel motivated to evolve. Even though I have had more than two decades of experience, it is an area I am still passionate about. I continue learning every day.

Has it always been possible to reconcile this demanding profession with your personal life?
It is a constant challenge. I will state again that it would be impossible to complete all the stages I have mentioned on my journey on my own. However, for my part, this conciliation forces me to always have discipline, to be organised and to have a working method. Although it is difficult, I always try to separate these two dimensions. The demands of the profession are exhausting, no matter how beautiful it is, it forces you to constantly deal with stress and things do not always go smoothly. However, a worthwhile challenge.

What is your analysis of the legal profession in Portugal? Do you feel that this area has been properly valued in our society?
This is a challenging time for us. In terms of law firms, it is a very dynamic market. We have continued to see partners leave large firms and create new ones, including some boutiques specialising in certain areas of law, and even some mergers, which proves that this is a market which is constantly evolving.
As far as law in general is concerned, there are also many challenges. On the one hand, there is the change that recently took place with the new law on professional organisations, which also affected the legal profession – and which has been criticised by all lawyers. On the other hand, there is also the current situation in the justice system, which continues to be chaotic in many ways, whether it is the problems with the courts, the lack of resources, the dissatisfaction of court employees who have poor career development conditions… all of these factors end up affecting the area of law and complicate our performance as lawyers. To that extent, I view the legal profession and law in Portugal not with pessimism, but with some concern.
This does not mean that the area is not valued, but I do not think it has been valued enough. When many international investors want to invest in a particular country, they look at its state of justice as an indicator. So, when we have excessive delays, problems, and delays in the justice system, it is obviously an unbelievably bad indicator. But not only that, a Portuguese citizen who wants to assert their rights often finds that if justice is delayed, it is almost like it is being denied. For this reason, I think there is still room for more and better.

In your view, what role should lawyers play in these challenges and in making this area better and faster?
A lawyer, by nature, is always someone who fights for rights and against injustice. By the very nature of their role, lawyers are the right people to fight. However, in order to do this, we need to be in tune with the Bar Association, which will assert these concerns in the right and proper fora, as well as positively proposing improvements and changes.
As far as possible, CVSP Advogados has taken some positions on these challenges, although I admit that we could also do more and better, even though it is very complicated to be on several fronts at once.

Lawyer’s Day is imminent, celebrated on 19 May. Do you think this event has an impact on Portuguese society?
In Portuguese society, perhaps not that much. However, for any lawyer or even for the Bar Association, it is certainly a date that means something, or at least should mean something, even more than a mere commemoration of an ephemeris. It could be a date that prompts reflection and alerts society to the problems of justice. Even more than alerting lawyers and the Bar Association itself, it could propose concrete solutions. In general, the decision-making bodies are aware of the existing issues or problems.

The challenges facing the legal sector and, consequently, lawyers, include innovation and digitalisation. How has CVSP Advogados been adapting to the new demands of innovation in the legal profession? How has this new reality altered your organisation and ability to respond?
As far as possible, our firm has tried to keep up to date, although we recognise that it has not yet reached the level that many large firms have. What is certain is that any lawyer who does not keep up to date runs the risk of being left behind. The revolution we are now witnessing with the advent of Artificial Intelligence could represent something similar to the introduction of the fax or the internet and email… so we are aware of this. In any case, internally we are already trying to implement certain relatively automated mechanisms that can improve efficiency. As a small company, we must be efficient in order to respond quickly.
We know that this is the future, not least because it is already a reality. There is no choice but to adapt and gain competences in this direction.

In recent times, we have seen a number of changes and alterations in various legal dynamics: Gold Visas, the Nationality Law, and the end of the Non-Habitual Resident Status. As a lawyer with extensive experience, how do you analyse these changes from a global perspective?
Unfortunately, some of the changes have not been the most positive. A general problem in law in particular is the constant change in legislative systems, particularly in the area of taxation, which once again affects companies, investors, and society in general. With these changes, knowing what to expect is impossible.
With regard to Gold Visas and the end of the Non-Habitual Resident Status, from an objective point of view, it is unfortunate that they have quickly made a decision, solely because of ideological motives, not only to end Gold Visas for property but also to end the NHR programme.
When it comes to Golden Visas for property, I understand that the issue of price inflation could arise. It seems, there have been some studies, but others have demonstrated that the Gold Visas were not the case. I think they could have been maintained for this purpose, possibly with a few adjustments. What is more, if hypothetically the problem was in housing, it could perfectly have been well maintained for commercial buildings.
As to the end of the NHR, I once again regret that the decision was taken too soon. I believe that there should have been a discussion in the community and perhaps some adjustments could have been made. I welcome the fact that they have at least provided for a transitional regime for 2024, but I fear that the end of the NHR has clearly affected the move to Portugal of foreigners and even highly qualified Portuguese who could return to Portugal. The former government did introduce the new regime, but it is not comparable to the previous one.
We can already feel the negative impact of these changes because several foreign clients were contemplating coming to Portugal but ultimately decided against it. With all due respect, although NHR beneficiaries may be eligible for exemptions or a reduced rate, their value has not been taken into account. Regardless, when they come to Portugal, they bring know-how and pay an innumerable amount of indirect taxes that are not to be despised. Also, many of our practice clients are entrepreneurs and, in many cases, invest in projects in Portugal, paying taxes just as any other taxpayer.
Still on the subject of the Golden Visa and the NHR, it is important to acknowledge that we are a small market that is largely dependent on foreign investment, and these programmes have to be understood in the light of these same mechanisms. These two factors make our country attractive.
With regard to the Nationality Law, I would like to highlight in a positive way the change that has taken place, in the sense that the time of residence in Portugal will start counting from the moment the visa is applied for. I applaud this change, as the time it took to grant visas was previously incredibly lengthy. The problem has been lessened by this change.
In any case, I also regret that SEF – Immigration and Borders Service – has been abolished and the new organisation AIMA – Agency for Integration, Migration and Asylum – has been created. The backlog of visa applications poses a challenge for this new government. We have clients who have been waiting for family reunification applications for over a year and a half. In my opinion, a special measure should be implemented in this situation, similar to what was done by the government during the Covid-19 vaccination. This solution would entail mass “Open House” appointments and would involve gathering a team of staff hired for this purpose, in order to be able to handle with these backlogs. In my opinion, this is an urgent measure, not least because Portugal is already looking bad in the European Union, particularly in the Schengen area, which could spell trouble in the near future.
In a state governed by the rule of law, it is unacceptable for someone to wait for more than a year for a residence visa.

What advice would you like to give to someone who is starting their career in law?
The first requirement is without a doubt to possess a fervour for the legal profession and the capacity to make sacrifices. As this profession is highly demanding, achieving success will be exceedingly challenging without a strong passion for it and the ability to persevere.
I also recommend that you have an area of expertise and investing, not only in training, but also in collaborating with experienced lawyers in that field.
It is never too late to pursue your dreams; I am living proof that it is feasible.

In conclusion, what challenges will CVSP Advogados face in 2024 and how does João Santos Pinto, along with your team, will continue to ensure that your clients receive efficient and swift responses?
Our office has always made an effort to grow sustainably. Growing organically would be a challenging task, but that is our hope for the remaining months of 2024. To strengthen the property and immigration areas, Carlota Melim was recently hired.
From CVSP Advogados, clients can expect the same level of service as always. We will continue to stand up for them and to fly our brand’s flag.


Revista Digital

Revista Pontos de Vista Edição 131


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